Rip your enemies apart, then pick up the pieces to beat the rest of the enemies – Wulverblade Review [PC]
I love classic beat’em up fighters. It all began with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game, which for some reason was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II on NES, and peaked with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time on SNES. While there have been numerous other beat’em ups since Turtles in Time is hands down my all-time favorite. Which brings us to Wulverblade. I’m going to get right to it, Wulverblade is not as good as Turtles in Time. Which is saying quite a bit. However, Wulverblade does offer some interesting and fun gameplay, but it does nothing to push forward the genre or even master it.
Wulverblade is about a Norse village leader, and current Wulver, Caradoc who has to defend his people from the invading forces of Rome’s 9th Legion. The forces cause turmoil in the land, causing the people of the region to even begin fighting amongst themselves. Players take control of Caradoc, or one of his two companions, to end the conflict and discover the true powers of being a Wulver. Here’s a hint, Altered Beasts. The story is pretty straightforward, some twists here and there, but overall it’s beat the bad guy to protect your people. Where I feel the game does lose some point, is the varying accents of the characters and it’s attempt to take itself too seriously. I feel with the cartoony graphics and funky accents, it would have excelled if it leaned into it. You can’t look like Clash of Clans and expect to be gritty. Just not happening.
Gameplay is much like traditional beat’em up games from the 90’s generation of consoles. You can combo, grab, and break objects. It attempts to add some depth by giving you and uppercut feature, which is accomplished by double tapping the forward direction. It is an extremely useful move and a great addition to gameplay format. Or it would be if double tapping forward doesn’t start your run as well. Here’s what really bothers me about that, you can only run left and right, you are unable to run up or down. Which is common in these type of games, stupid, but common and pretty much standard practice. Which begs to question, why isn’t double tapping up or down mapped for other moves? If you’re not going to add advanced movement functions, use that for combat instead of already mapped controls. Even worse, the combat system seems to be locked in quarter-eating pitfalls, which is particularly annoying since you don’t need quarters to play. The main pitfall I’m talking about is a bad guy coming at you while you’re in the middle of a combo and you’re unable to break out of your combo so you end up getting hit and bounced around by a group of enemies until you’re knocked down. You usually lose at least 20% of health when this happens. Turtles in Time was incredibly intuitive in allowing you to simply just walk up or down to dodge an attack mid-combo. It’s not as absolute when enemies jump in front of you, but if it’s a ranged enemy or one that gets behind you, you’re SOL.
Mechanics is where the game just doesn’t measure up. Turtles in Time is by far my favorite in the genre, but Scott Pilgrim is hands down the best of the genre. All the little pratfalls are nonexistent, and it even takes the game further by adding an RPG system to it. It is a flawless beat’em up game and honestly the new standard I have measured all beat’em up games too. That was back in 2010. Wulverblade in that comparison is on the level of Streets of Rage. The most intriguing feature is being able to de-limb your enemies then use the limbs. However, all you do is throw the limbs at your enemies for a single hit. That’s it. Granted you can pull off some pretty cool combo attacks by cutting up one enemy, picking up the severed head, throwing it, then following it up with another brutal combo and repeat. But, it gets old, and really disappointing that dismembering your enemies has no real impact on gameplay. It’s a gimmick. After that, the game just kind of feels flat, and often times annoying. The items have to be picked up, which is a given, but how you pick them up varies from walking over or pressing the primary attack button. The annoying part comes with the manually picked up items. When you kill enemies, they often drop their weapons as well as their severed limbs. So, if you’re fighting a group with varying health, one enemy falls first, dropping an arm and a weapon. As you continue your combo to kill the rest of the enemies, your character will stop to pick up the limb or weapon and get hit by one of the remaining enemies, putting you into that enemy beat down until you get knocked down. It greatly takes away from the game flow, which is when you start to think of all the other shortcomings. Like, why are most of the weapons just picked up and thrown? Knives, swords, hammers, aces, just chucked at the enemy. Why have all these different weapons if they’re all just going to be thrown like a rock, and cause the same exact damage and effect? There are some weapons that you are able to wield, but they remove your inability to run and aren’t even instant kill or extremely heavy damage. In fact, most of these items simply knock down and knock back enemies. Which is also pace ruining, if you happen to knock them off screen. Now you have to wait for them to come back on screen, while they have the ability to attack you. This is common and standard in the genre, but something you often plan for. The complaint is that these pick-up weapons are basically designed to cause this. I mean at least in The SImpsons Arcade game when you picked up the hammer it would one-hit kill anything under a mini-boss. There are some weapon pickups that become a secondary attack. Which is kind of cool, but it never flows into your combos. It’s a finisher attack, which I guess can be used to end your combo and maybe dodge an otherwise undodgeable attack. But, it feels like a missed opportunity to expand the fighting system. Which wouldn’t be a big deal, except they added a block button. Which is useful, and required for advanced levels and boss fights. However, it just makes me question why there is no counter system. It seems like pressing the block button at the right time would allow you to counter attack what is otherwise unblockable attacks. Why make an exclamation point appear when an enemy is about to attack if you aren’t able to counter it? You can hold block, there is no bonus for quick blocking…
Wulverblade is a decent beat’em up game that’s fun for a bit but, seems to draw your attention to its shortcomings instead of its story and world. It adds nothing new to the genre and isn’t deep enough to justify how long its levels are. The levels feel like a level in a giant adventure game, while the gameplay feels like a mobile game. It doesn’t add up. While visually intriguing, and momentarily gripping because of the violence, it never gets beyond that and quickly loses its draw. In a genre that was highly saturated in the rise of gaming, it fails to outperform, and in many cases, measure up to many of its predecessors. I’d only recommend this game if you really like the idea and imagery of cutting off your enemies head then throwing it at their friend. My Wulverblade Review gets a 5/10.